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The Best Tamale Pie

The Best Tamale Pie // Karista's Kitchen


Sometimes all we need is good ole comfort food like Tamale Pie. I often made tamale pie for my girls when they were little. It was a sure method for getting everyone to the table. 

I loved hearing my girls squeals of happiness when they came into the kitchen and I announced we were having tamale pie for dinner.  My tamale pie is filled with tender ground beef, savory aromatics, fresh corn, black beans and loads of flavorful spices. Then it’s topped with a corn and cheddar laced cornbread that is slightly sweet. I serve it with sour cream, sliced avocados and a tossed green salad for good measure.

So, I have to admit, I kind of liked tamale pie night myself. It’s such a great way to use ground beef and the cornbread topping makes it feel a bit playful. Back in the day when I was making this dish often, it was a delicious way to serve a gluten-free meal for my gluten sensitive daughter. I also had a freezer full of grass-fed ground beef and needed inventive ways to prepare it.

The Best Tamale Pie // Karista's Kitchen

Today, my girls still love this Tamale Pie. They continue to crack me up as they are mostly grown up now and yet, still little kids at heart. They both love ground beef recipes, especially when it’s Tamale Pie.

I made this last week and both my daughters were completely delighted. Then the oldest daughter decided to take home the leftovers – for her lunch the next day. Much to the disappointment of my youngest daughter who I found rummaging through the refrigerator looking for it. 🙂 I guess I’ll be making another batch next week.

This is an easy recipe to pull together and pop in the oven. It just screams happiness and everything that makes dinner delicious. 

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love!


The Best Tamale Pie

Serving Size: 4-6

The Best Tamale Pie


    For the cornbread topping
  • 1 1/2 cups Masa Harina (I use Bob's Red Mill)
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/2 cup corn (either fresh or frozen)
    For the filling
  • 1 tablespoon ghee, extra virgin olive oil or flavorless coconut oil
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1 10.75 ounce can of tomato puree
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 cup of corn, fresh or frozen
  • 1 handful of fresh cilantro, lightly chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Squeeze of lime juice


Prepare the cornbread topping
  • Pre-heat the oven to 375F.
  • Whisk together the masa marina, melted butter, sugar, salt, baking powder and water. When the consistency feels good, like a cornbread batter, fold in the cheddar cheese and the corn. Set aside.
  • Prepare the filling
  • Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a little oil to the pan. When the oil is hot add the onions and saute just until wilted. Then stir in the ground beef. When the ground beef is almost cooked through, add the garlic, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, coriander and red pepper flakes. Cook for one minute longer and then take the skillet off the heat.
  • Gently stir in the tomato puree, the corn, black beans and fresh cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Pour the filling into an 8x8 square baking dish or an 8x10 rectangular baking pan. You can use a large baking pan but you may need to use 1 1/2lbs of ground beef if using a larger pan. You will have plenty of cornbread topping for the larger pan.
  • Once you've add the filling to the bottom of the baking pan, spread the cornbread filling over the top. Place it in the pre-heated oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the cornbread is done and the sides are bubbly.
  • When the tamale pie is done, take it out of the oven and let it sit for at least 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve with sliced avocado, sour cream, extra cheese, diced tomatoes, salsa and anything else you think would be delicious.
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    Kid Friendly Pasta vegetarian

    Straw and Hay (Paglia e Fieno)

    I don’t think the Bennett Crew wants to see another plate of pasta any time soon.  This is clearly my fault.  After I made this recipe the first time, I realized I hadn’t used the right type of pasta.

    So I tried it a second time using the perfect pasta.  It was delicious.  But I got so excited about how spectacular it tasted, I forgot to add the sweet spring peas.  Great.  I couldn’t possibly post this without the peas so I decided to make it one last time.

    I guess third times a charm because the Paglia e Fieno was perfect!  And so perfectly delicious that after serving it to my hungry crew and downing a plate myself I realized I forgot to take a picture!

    Despite not getting the third perfect picture of the perfect Paglia e Fieno, I can tell you the dish is simply divine.  A smooth and creamy sauce infused with just a hint of garlic and mellow onion, delicately wrapping the spinach and egg pasta.  With each bite of silky sauced pasta are bits of bold flavored proscuitto, thin slivers of earthy cremini mushrooms and sweet spring baby peas.  All the flavors balanced and beautifully decadent.

    As you can see the picture of the Paglia e Fieno without the spring peas made it into the blog.  I didn’t have the heart to make it one more time for dinner, just for a picture.  I’ll need to wait a few more weeks and by that time, we will have tired of spring peas and moved onto the newer and more exciting summer produce.  So in the interest of utitlizing all those spring peas now in season, I decided to post the picture anyway.  You get the “picture” right?  🙂

    Paglia e Fieno (if you’re wondering how to pronounce this it sounds like PAHL-ya eh FYAY-no)

    Serves 4-6


    1/2 lb spinach linguine or taglietelle, cooked

    1/2 lb egg linguine, cooked (sometimes you can find “straw and hay” packaged together)

    2 tablespoons butter

    2 tablespoons olive oil

    1 small onion, diced

    2 cloves garlic, minced

    1 cup sliced organic cremini mushrooms

    1 cup organic peas

    1/2 cup diced proscuitto or ham (omit the ham for a vegetarian version)

    1 pint heavy cream

    1/2  cup freshly grated parmesan

    Salt and pepper

    Chopped fresh Italian parsley (for garnish)


    In a sauce pan heat the butter and oil over medium heat.  When the butter has melted and is frothy add the onion.  Let the onion saute until wilted and fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.

    Next stir in the cremini mushrooms and let them cook with the onion for a minute or two.  Next add the garlic and let it cook for just a minute.

    Stir in the heavy cream and turn down the heat to medium low.  Let the cream simmer for a few minutes until it’s thickened slightly.  Then stir in the peas and ham.

    Season the sauce with salt and pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes for a little bite to the sauce.

    Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta and toss gently.  To serve family style, transfer the pasta to a baking dish and sprinkle the top with the parmesan cheese.   Or plate on individual plates and top with the parmesan cheese.

    Turn the oven broiler on high and set the baking dish (or plates) in the center of the oven.  Let the parmesan on top brown and then remove from the oven.  Let the pasta sit for a few minutes before serving.  Dust with chopped fresh Italian parsley.

    *Although I love this dish prepared traditionally with the spinach and egg pasta, you can certainly substitute a whole grain or brown rice pasta.  It will still be delicious.

    Beef Kid Friendly

    Salisbury Steak with Pan Gravy

    I walked in my front door a few weeks ago and heard my oldest gal call “hey Mom!” from the family room sofa.  She’d come home from college for a few days to recover from a cold she’d picked up during mid-terms.  After we chatted for a few minutes about how she was feeling, she asked me if I could cook her dinner.  “Mom”, she says, “I just need a good home cooked meal and I’ll feel so much better”.  Who could resist a plea like this?  I was putty in her hands.

    Off with my rain coat and on with my apron, and into the kitchen I went.  I knew my pantry and frig were looking a little trim but there is always something to eat in my house.  I would just have to get creative. 

    Rummaging around I found all the ingredients for a perfect old fashioned comfort meal; a meal from my memories, comforting and tasty, the perfect meal for my ailing college student.

    My Grandmother was often seen standing in front of her old gas stove frying up hamburgers and preparing pan gravy to ladle over the hamburger steaks and mashed potatoes.  I remember anxiously waiting  until dinner was done and we could all sit down at the old kitchen table and dig into the delicious home cooked meal Grandma prepared.  It’s amazing how certain foods are tied to our memories.  And for some reason, most of my childhood memories involve food!

    Salisbury Steak is the official title to this lovely little pan fried hamburger patty.  It’s lightly filled with fresh chopped onion, garlic, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, and a few more savory ingredients that create the perfect comfort meal.  Add some pan gravy and mashers and life just slowed down to a tasty crawl, waiting to be savored and cherished. 

    Before my oldest gal left to drive back to college, she announced that Salisbury Steak is her new favorite “Steak”.  This announcement really tickled me because it’s not technically a steak.  However, to my sweet college gal, it was every bit as good as a $100 steak dinner. 

    Keep dinner simple… Enjoy the flavors of life!

    Serves 4-6


    1 lbs grass fed organic ground beef  (Not only a healthier option, but much more flavorful and tender as well)

    ½ cup diced yellow onion

    3 cloves garlic, finely minced

    ¼ cup fresh bread crumbs, or your favorite brand of bread crumbs (skip the bread crumbs for wheat free recipe)

    ¼ cup warm milk

    2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

    1 egg, lightly whisked

    ½ teaspoon salt

    ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

    1 tablespoon fresh chopped Italian parsley (optional)

    1 tablespoon High heat oil (safflower, sunflower or coconut oil)

    Pan Gravy

    1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

    1 tablespoon butter

    1 cup organic beef broth (I love the organic Beef Better than Bouillon)

    Dash of red wine (optional)

    ½ cup sliced sautéed mushrooms (optional)

    Salt and pepper to taste


    Combine the bread crumbs and warm milk.  If you are preparing a wheat free meal, skip this step.

    Mix together the ground beef, onion, garlic, bread crumb mixture, Worcestershire, egg, fresh Italian parsley, salt and pepper. 

    Form the ground beef mixture into 6 round patties, pressing slightly thinner in the center of each patty for even plumping during cooking. 

    Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium to medium high heat.  Place the patties in the skillet and pan fry on each side until the beef is done to your preference. 

    Transfer the patties to a platter.

    Turn the heat down to medium and add the butter to the skillet.  Just as the butter melts whisk in the tablespoon of flour. 

    Add the beef broth and a dash of red wine if desired.  I like about ¼ cup red wine.  Continue to whisk the gravy, pulling up all the yummy brown bits off the bottom of the pan.

    Once the gravy has thickened slightly, taste for salt and pepper.  If using mushrooms, add them to the sauce.  If the gravy is too thick add additional beef broth until it’s the desired consistency. For more sauce, the recipe is easily doubled. 

    Pour the gravy over the patties and garnish with fresh chopped Italian parsley and serve with garlic mashed potatoes and fresh green salad, or roasted veggies.

    Appetizers Beef Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Life Around My Table

    Aunt Dagmar’s Swedish Meatballs

    I feel as if I just found the culinary pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!  Melt in your mouth exquisitely delicious Aunt Dagmar’s Swedish Meatballs.  

    I have been on a determined search for the perfect Swedish Meatball and I must say after reviewing and testing many variations, this is absolutely the most delicious.  I have my fabulous friend, Maria Nelson, to thank for this recipe.  A treasured family recipe she has so graciously allowed me to share.

    This delightful recipe contains a lovely blend of ground beef and pork, delicate shallots, breadcrumbs soaked in warm milk and a bit of allspice.  A delicate consistency that lends itself well to rolling into small balls and baking in the oven.  Maria’s family serves these yummy treats with lingonberry jam and boiled parsley potatoes.

    The Bennett Crew loved Aunt Dagmar’s Swedish Meatballs so much I could hardly get them plated and sauced as they were eating them right off the baking sheet!  Ranger Craig asked me to save a few for a snack but I couldn’t resist eating the leftovers for lunch.  Guess I’ll be making more Swedish Meatballs soon.

    Keep dinner simple… Enjoy the flavors of Sweden!

    Loads of Love,


    Aunt Dagmar’s Swedish Meatballs

    Serving Size: 4-6


    • ½ lb ground beef
    • ½ lb ground pork
    • ½ cup finely ground bread crumbs (seasoned or plain)
    • ½ cup warmed milk
    • 3 tablespoons shallots, finely diced
    • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • ½ teaspoon pepper
    • ¼ teaspoon allspice
      For the Swedish Meatball Cream Gravy
    • 3 tablespoons butter
    • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup warm milk
    • 3 cups beef broth
    • Directions
    • Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk, cooking the flour for 2-3 minutes, careful not to brown the roux.
    • Slow whisk in the warm milk, then the broth and bring to a slow boil until thickened. If the boil is too lively, turn down the heat and slowly simmer until the sauce has reduced and thickened.


    For the Meatballs
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
  • Combine the beef and pork in a medium bowl. Soak the bread crumbs in warm milk until softened and then add to the meat mixture, gently mixing ingredients together.
  • Mix in the remaining ingredients to the meat mixture. Using a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop (for uniformity), form into small balls and place on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet.
  • The meatballs can be prepared with two methods:
  • Oven method: Once all the meatballs are on the lined baking sheet, place them in the oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes or until nicely browned. (I used a convection roast option and the meatballs were done in about 12 minutes and beautifully browned.)
  • Pan Seared method: Pre-heat 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon high heat oil in a large non-stick, ceramic coated or cast iron pan. Brown the meatballs in batches and then place on the baking sheet. Place the meatballs in the oven for about 8-10 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through.
  • Serve these delicious meatballs with the Cream Gravy below, along with boiled new potatoes and lingonberry jam. Yum!
  • For the Gravy
  • Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk, cooking the flour for 2-3 minutes, careful not to brown the roux.
  • Slow whisk in the warm milk, then the broth and bring to a slow boil until thickened. If the boil is too lively, turn down the heat and slowly simmer until the sauce has reduced and thickened.
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    Beef Kid Friendly Pasta Pork

    Italian Meatballs – Simple and Delicious!

    I believe I’ve made twenty different types of meatballs over the last few years.  Each time hoping I’ve come up with the perfect meatball recipe.  I’m not sure there is such a thing, especially with my family’s diverse taste buds.  However, I think I’ve come up with one darn good recipe that’ll be sure to please even the pickiest of meatball connoisseurs.  And the best news is, they are easily prepared with minimum fuss and maximum flavor.

    To save time, make a double batch and freeze half for another meal.  Then, when you need a meal in a pinch, just thaw the frozen meatballs (or meatball mix) and bake as directed in the recipe.  The meatballs also make a yummy appetizer for a casual dinner party.  Hold the meatballs and sauce in a chafing dish or warmer and serve with party picks for easy self serving.

    I’ve included a simple tomato sauce recipe for the meatballs.  This sauce can be doubled and then half of the sauce can be frozen for your next meal that requires a fresh tomato sauce.  A quick tip:  I often spend one weekend day a month making homemade tomato sauce.  It’s easy to freeze and can be used in a multitude of recipes.

    However, if time is a factor, feel free to substitute your favorite jarred sauce.  Cooks Illustrated recently rated jarred pasta sauces.  Bertolli’s Tomato and Basil Sauce won the highest recommendation for not being over seasoned and having a fresh tomato taste.  If you’re looking for an organic sauce choice, my personal favorite is Muir Glen Cabernet Marinara.  All the Muir Glen sauces are delicious and make suitable substitutions for homemade sauce.   Bon Appetito!

    Italian Meatballs and Simple Tomato Gravy


    ½ lb Ground Pork

    ½ lb Ground Beef

    ½ lb Ground Veal

    2 teaspoons salt

    1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

    ½ cup yellow onion, small diced

    2 cloves garlic, minced

    2 teaspoons dried oregano

    1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs or seasoned bread crumbs mixed with 1/3 cup warm milk

    ¼ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

    ¼ cup fresh chopped Italian parsley (optional)

    Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

    1 egg whisked


    Pre-heat the oven to 400F.

    Mix lightly, all ingredients together with a spoon or hands.  Form into tablespoon size balls and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Repeat the process until all the meatball mixture has been used.

    Place in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through.  Remove from the oven and place the meatballs in the pot of tomato gravy.  Serve over your favorite pasta and garnish with additional parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese.

    Simple Tomato Gravy

    1 28oz can tomato puree (or crushed tomatoes for a chunkier sauce)

    2-3 tablespoons olive oil

    1 onion diced

    2-3 cloves garlic, diced

    1/2 cup dry red wine (optional)

    1 tsp dried oregano (or ½ tsp fresh chopped oregano)

    1 tsp tomato paste

    Pinch of red pepper (optional)

    Salt and pepper to taste

    ½ cup water (keep on hand to thin out sauce)

    Heat a sauce pan on medium heat and sauté the onions.   When the onions have become translucent, add the garlic and sauté just until fragrant.  Do not brown the garlic as it will taste bitter.  Add the red wine and reduce by half.

    Add the tomatoes, oregano, tomato paste and red pepper.  Mix thoroughly.  Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer.  Add about 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Let the sauce simmer for about 5-10 minutes.  If the sauce appears to think, add about ¼ cup of water at a time to thin the sauce.  Taste for seasoning.

    A few tips:  If your sauce tastes a little to “bright” or has too much acidity, try adding a pat of butter to your sauce to mellow out the acid.

    Although it is a rare occasion, I sometimes run out of staple ingredients such as garlic and Italian parsley.  Not to worry.  Simply substitute with a teaspoon of garlic powder and, either fresh chopped basil or a teaspoon of dried basil.  Basil is not parsley, however, just like parsley, basil compliments the meatball mixtures flavor.

    Bon Appetito!